Former PS Hlalele challenges dismissal
FORMER Public Works Ministry Principal Secretary (PS), Mothabathe Hlalele, is waiting on the Court of Appeal after challenging the August 2020 High Court which upheld his dismissal by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro.
Mr Hlalele’s appeal was heard to finality on Friday by the apex court which reserved its judgement to 14 May 2021.
His lawyer, Attorney Khotso Nthontho argued that Mr Hlalele ought to have been office after his contract was allegedly renewed by former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane before the latter was forced out of power by his own All Basotho Convention (ABC) in May 2020.
Since he had a valid contract which had been renewed for a further three years by Mr Thabane, Mr Hlalele was therefore wrongfully dismissed by Mr Thabane’s successor, Moeketsi Majoro, argued Mr Nthontho.
He therefore petitioned the Court of Appeal to order his reinstatement.
His application was heard by the apex court bench comprising of its president, Justice Kananelo Mosito and fellow judges, Petrus Damaseb (Namibia) and the Zimbabwean Moses Chinhengo.
Mr Hlalele, who was fired on 21 August 2020, has sued for reinstatement, arguing that his dismissal by Dr Majoro is “unlawful” because prior to his departure, Mr Thabane had renewed his contract by a further three years until 2023.
The disgruntled former PS was appointed by Mr Thabane on 11 July 2017 on an initial 36 months contract which ended on 8 August 2020.
In January 2020, he wrote to Mr Thabane asking for a renewal of his contract by another three years. Subsequently, the then Government Secretary, Moahloli Mphaka, wrote to the Public Service Commission (PSC), allegedly on behalf of Mr Thabane informing it to renew the contract of Mr Hlalele and other PSs who had applied for renewals. Mr Mphaka had also included his name as his contract was also expiring. Mr Mphaka’s contract was however, not renewed. Dr Majoro subsequently appointed him government advisor at the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWC). He was replaced as government secretary by Lerotholi Pheko.
Addressing the apex court bench on Friday, Mr Nthontho argued that Mr Hlalele’s contract was legitimately renewed by Mr Thabane in consultation with the PSC as required by law.
“Clause 12.1 of the appellant’s (Mr Hlalele) contract stipulates that he may show desire to have his contract renewed five months prior to its expiration and he did so in writing in January 2020,” Mr Nthontho argued.
“His contract was renewed by another 36 months starting from July 2020.
“The PSC chairperson (Moshoeshoe Sehloho) states in his answering affidavit that he received correspondence from the government secretary on 19 March 2020. That is proof that there was consultation of the PSC in line with section 139(1) of the constitution.
“The (former) government secretary (Mphaka) states in the letter that he was directed by the prime minister which is clear that he was transmitting the message of the prime minister. The duty of the government secretary is to write letters on behalf of the government,” Mr Nthontho further argued.
On his part, Dr Majoro’s lawyer, Monaheng Rasekoai, said he did not he would not make any submissions but would instead rely on opposing papers he had filed on behalf of his client.
In his papers, Mr Rasekoai argued that Mr Mphaka was conflicted in that he was also seeking the renewal of his own contract. Therefore, he could not write to PSC to renew Mr Hlalele’s contract, Mr Rasekoai argued.
Mr Rasekoai also argued that Section 139(1) of the constitution was clear that the prime minister had to personally engage the PSC to renew contracts and not delegate his powers to anyone including the government secretary.
The matter was heard from 4.30pm until 6pm late by the three-member court bench which reserved judgement to 14 May 2021.
“Thank you for your participation. The judgement is reserved and will be handed down on 14 May 2021. The matter is adjourned to that date,” Justice Mosito said.
Dr Majoro took over from Mr Thabane on 20 May 2020 after the latter had been forced to step down by his own ABC party. Shortly after his advent, Dr Majoro removed most of Mr Thabane’s appointees in various government departments including the PSs. This did not go well with Mr Hlalele and others who argued that Mr Thabane had renewed their contracts.
Mr Hlalele petitioned the High Court in August 2020 but his application was dismissed on 9 December 2020 by Justice Tšeliso Monapathi who ruled that that the “purported extension of his (Hlalele)’s contract was null and void as the applicant had no clear right to have his contract extended”.